Our forward-thinking perspective helps those in need as mental health and substance use issues rise. We recognize that members require increased access to mental health care, and we deliver it consistently by adding more access methods and therapists.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we offered mental health and wellness services using telehealth to help augment the important work of our mental health professionals. With the increased pressures of the pandemic, we pivoted quickly to embrace telehealth even more. As we move towards a more “normal” world in the months ahead, patients may gravitate more towards face-to-face delivery of mental health care. A portion of patients has shared that they would prefer to continue telehealth mental health care when clinically appropriate.
Healthy embrace of technology
Among recent mental health care visits this year and due to the pandemic, an average of 70% of patients made video appointments. One successful virtual visit was recently made by an 18-year old male patient who felt anxious in public settings.
Seeking help, he chose care from KP using telehealth and was ultimately diagnosed with anxiety and insomnia. The clinician supported the patient by teaching and practicing mindfulness and distress tolerance skills using video and phone from the patient’s home to help reduce the patient’s symptoms and experience less anxiety when in public. Telehealth also helped reduce exposure to situations outside of his home during therapy that could have potentially made his symptoms worse.
As COVID-19 cases decline, requests for face-to-face sessions may increase even as patients have expressed a preference for using video or phone visits. Meeting patients’ preferences and clinical appropriateness and maintaining a range of quality options is important. It is part of our promise to our members’ mental health.
“I feel so grateful that I’m able to continue my treatment virtually. I didn’t think I’d be comfortable with being on video, but in some ways, this has pushed me outside of my comfort zone and has helped me get better.”
Female KP patient
More access to patients, fewer cancellations, and faster results
As one KP clinician shared, “I had some virtual appointments before the pandemic hit. Our department was so quick to shift to nearly 100% virtual services when the pandemic hit, and I was so grateful. They really provided the technical support and training we needed to keep ourselves and our patients safe. I’m able to access more of my patients, have fewer cancellations, and people get better faster as a result. I’ve enjoyed being able to work with people in their element, which has made in vivo practice possible,” Of course, a clinician’s assessment of a patient’s condition always determines the best way care is considered and delivered.
Virtual care shows promise of continued adoption. It provides patients greater access and convenience to mental health care. It also helps close the gap in disparities if a patient is unable to leave the home or doesn’t have transportation to a medical office building. More access to mental health care and faster results helps benefit everyone.